Ajahn Punnadhammo has been studying and practicing Buddhism since 1979 and was ordained in Thailand in the forest tradition of Ajahn Chah (novice ordination Feb. 1991, higher ordination Feb. 1992). Between 1990 and 1995 he was based at Wat Pah Nanachat, Thailand. Punnadhammo is a Canadian, born Michael Dominskyj in Toronto in 1955. He began studying the Dhamma under Kema Ananda, the founder and first teacher at the Arrow River Center.
As a monk, I bring a strong commitment, along with the renunciate flavor, to the classic Buddhist teachings. I play with ideas, with humor and a current way of expressing the teachings, but I don't dilute them.
Sitting in a field of fifty to eighty people really starts my mind sparking. Since I don't prepare my talks ahead of time, I find myself listening to what I'm saying along with everyone else. This leaves a lot of room for the Dhamma to come up. Just having eighty people listening to me is enough to engage me, stimulate me, and create a nice flow of energy. The actual process of teaching evokes ideas that even I did not realize were being held somewhere in my mind.
Different teaching situations offer their own unique value. In retreat, you are able to build a cohesive and comprehensive body of the teachings. When people are not on retreat and come for one session, it opens a different window. They are more spontaneous and I'm given the chance to contact them in ways that are closer to their "daily-life mind." This brings up surprises and interesting opportunities for me to learn even more.
I'm continually struck by how important it is to establish a foundation of morality, commitment, and a sense of personal values for the Vipassana teachings to rest upon. Personal values have to be more than ideas. They have to actually work for us, to be genuinely felt in our lives. We can't bluff our way into insight. The investigative path is an intimate experience that empowers our individuality in a way that is not egocentric. Vipassana encourages transpersonal individuality rather than ego enhancement. It allow for a spacious authenticity to replace a defended personality.
Ajahn Sumedho is a prominent figure in the Thai Forest Tradition. His teachings are very direct, practical, simple, and down to earth. In his talks and sermons he stresses the quality of immediate intuitive awareness and the integration of this kind of awareness into daily life. Like most teachers in the Forest Tradition, Ajahn Sumedho tends to avoid intellectual abstractions of the Buddhist teachings and focuses almost exclusively on their practical applications, that is, developing wisdom and compassion in daily life. His most consistent advice can be paraphrased as to see things the way that they actually are rather than the way that we want or don't want them to be ("Right now, it's like this..."). He is known for his engaging and witty communication style, in which he challenges his listeners to practice and see for themselves. Students have noted that he engages his hearers with an infectious sense of humor, suffused with much loving kindness, often weaving amusing anecdotes from his experiences as a monk into his talks on meditation practice and how to experience life ("Everything belongs").
Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni was born in California and first encountered the Dhamma in 1979. Since that time she has been committed to awakening. On a trip to Asia she met highly accomplished meditation masters Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Buddhadasa and Dipa Ma. In 1989, she went to England where she joined the nun’s community in the Ajahn Chah Forest Tradition. After 20 years she left her monastic community to return to the USA where she founded Awakening Truth whose mission is eventually developing a Bhikkhuni training monastery integrating ancient teachings of the Forest Tradition into the modern world. Currently she is based at the Shakti Vihara hermitage near the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, where she uses wilderness as a daily part of her practice.
Ajahn Yatiko was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1968. He had a strong interest in religion from childhood and after a few years at university decided he needed to find a spiritual teacher, as opposed to an academic one. He was on his way to Tibet for ordination, but the plane stopped off in Bangkok on route. While having lunch in a Bangkok restaurant, a few Thai laymen sat down to join him and recommended he go to Wat Pah Nanachat, in Ubon. Owing to their high praise of Ajahn Chah, he decided to investigate. Shortly thereafter Ajahn Sumedho was visiting and Ajahn Yatiko was inspired to pursue monastic training at Wat Nanachat. He has been part of that community since 1992. He arrived at Abhayagiri in January, 2008.
Ayya Anandabodhi is co-founder of Aloka Vihara, a training monastery for women near Placerville, CA, where she currently resides. She has practiced meditation since 1989, and lived as part of the Ajahn Chah lineage at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries for 18 years. In 2009 she moved to the US and took full bhikkhuni ordination in 2011.
Ayya Medhanandi, a Canadian (1949), is abbess of Sati Saraniya Hermitage ( www.satisaraniya.ca ) An MSc graduate, she began meditating at 21, studied with an Advaita master in India, and managed UN/NGO health initiatives for malnourished women and children. In 1988, on retreat in Myanmar, she took ten-precept ordination with Sayadaw U Pandita, then spent ten years at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery and eight years based in New Zealand and Penang. In 2007, she received bhikkhuni ordination in Taiwan and was invited to Canada to establish the Hermitage. She trains nuns and teaches meditation, especially for Hospice staff and volunteers, and is the author of 'Gone Forth, Going Beyond'.
After being inspired by the presence and teachings of Ajahn Buddhadasa, i ordained 1993 at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, UK. A decade later, after meeting Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, i began to include Dzogchen teachings into my practice. In 2009 i moved to California and co-founded Aloka Vihara, a forest monastery for women in the Sierra Foothills near Placerville. i received bhikkhuni ordination in 2011 and feel particularly committed to right action on climate justice.